Champions League spot is Manchester United’s priority: Van Gaal


MANCHESTER: The FA Cup could offer him a trophy in his first season in charge of Manchester United but Louis van Gaal says qualifying for next season’s Champions League is the top priority.

United have not won the oldest cup competition in football since 2004 and host holders Arsenal in the quarter-final on Monday, hoping to move a step closer to ending their wait to lift the trophy for a record 12th time.

But Van Gaal’s focus is on restoring United to Europe’s elite club competition after the team missed out this season following their worst Premier League finish in the previous campaign when they were seventh.

The Dutch manager, who took over at Old Trafford in the aftermath of that calamitous season, says his side must treat the FA Cup as a mere bonus and concentrate on finishing in the Premier League’s top four to secure a Champions League spot.

“I always want to get the goals what we have set. And the goals we have set is the top four,” Van Gaal said.

“A title is fantastic. When you win the FA Cup you are not in the Champions League which is important for the club, but you have won a title. So for the players it is fantastic, for the manager it is fantastic but our goal is to reach in our first year together a place in the Champions League.”

United are fourth in the league with 10 games remaining, 10 points adrift of leaders Chelsea and one behind Arsenal in third, whose own manager Arsene Wenger once said that the “first trophy is to finish in the top four.”

And Van Gaal agrees: “I think that for a club the Champions League is the highest level and that’s why he is saying that.”

The Dutchman may have his sights set on European football ahead of hunting domestic silverware but he says it is still important for his side to beat Arsenal at Old Trafford, as it could affect their form for the rest of the league campaign.

“Every match you play has an influence in the next match. So we are in a ‘rat race’ in the Premier League and the club who wins the FA Cup match has a very good feeling for the next matches,” Van Gaal explained.

“It could be damaging for the team that loses, but you can also react.” (Reuters)